Staffing Considerations for SLPs

staffing considerations

There are more than 75,000 school-based SLPs in the United States, and we are working too hard.   I identify as a glass-three-quarters-full person, and I can find the positives, the bright side and the out-of-the-box thinking.  I thrive on this energy.  As of late, it has been more effortful, and I am hearing you, SLPs.  Recently, I met an SLP with a caseload of over 80 students across three campuses.  He was the sole SLP for each of those campuses.  I also met another SLP with a caseload of over 90 students across 6 campuses.  This needs to change for the sake of our SLPs and our students.  As a former school-based SLP, district and regional lead and current SLP serving in the trenches of two districts, I am deeply concerned.

6 Staffing Considerations for School-Based SLPs

Here are valuable considerations when staffing speech-language pathologists in a school:

1. Understand Workload versus Caseload:

Caseload is the number of students the SLP is serving.   According to the ASHA Schools Survey 2016, the caseload mean is 51 students for an elementary school and 50 students for those working at the secondary level.  “Workload” refers to all of our mandatory and performed activities, and the workload of school-based SLPs is astounding.  Because there is not a general mandate for caseload, we need to understand workload.  For more information, you can go the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) page on Workload vs. Caseload. Understand the workload of your hired SLPs before making campus placements.

2.  Prime Duties:

Let’s take the previous point a bit further.  The brilliant Tammy Qualls, my former district co-lead, developed a document that listed the Prime Duties of a speech-language pathologist.  This list was distributed to district leads, and it provided a transparent (and enlightening) depiction of SLP responsibilities.  Many assume that our role is primarily comprised of direct services.  This is not the case.   Here are the duties as defined by the scope of our school-based role:

  • Providing direct speech-language therapy
  • Participating in a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) (including Response to Intervention-RTI)
  • Billing for Medicaid
  • Conducting speech-language assessments
  • Writing reports
  • Planning, Facilitating and Following-Up with colleagues and families for IEP Meetings

It should be acknowledged that approximately half of SLP responsibilities are outside the scope of direct services, and time should be given for these tasks.

3.  Pattern of Service Delivery:

There are many different ways to provide speech-language therapy, and, by law, we are mandated to provide an individualized schedule of services for students.  This means there is not a specified time.  We often hear 30-minutes twice a week as standard.  Student needs should drive the schedule of service.  Seeing a schedule where all 61 students receive 30 minutes of speech-language therapy weekly is a pattern of service delivery.   Here is our course on Service-Delivery.  Considerations for appropriate and individualized schedules should be taken into account when staffing SLPs.

4.  Itinerant Considerations:

SLPs, oftentimes, share their time between multiple campuses.  Understand that additional locations yield the following:  added time for travel, differences in policies and procedures,  rapport with staff, differences in availability of resources (including work space), specified days for IEP meetings, alignment of schedule for other itinerant staff members. Considerations for added locations for an SLP are necessary to ensure an understanding of his/her workload.

5.  Evidence-Based Practice à Graduation:

Effective speech-language therapy requires individualization and time.  When this happens, graduation from speech-language therapy can be attained. Time considerations for implementation of evidence-based strategies will yield quicker dismissals from speech.

6.  SLP Happiness:

And, finally, SLPs do meaningful work.  We empower students to use their words and voice to tell their stories.  SLP effort is relevant and valuable.  We should move forward with such consideration when staffing for our districts.

In closing, I will say that our work is important.  When given the opportunities to do our job effectively, our students thrive.  And, at the end of the day, we want our students and SLPs to thrive.

Written by: phuonglienpalafox

5 Comments on “Staffing Considerations for SLPs”

  1. December 8, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    Hi I have been a speech therapist for 12 years, however this is only my second year in an elementary school. I do see some ways that we can make service delivery both effective and efficient. I have read some of your information regarding therapy in the classrooms and I love it and I am striving to implement that. Question?

    How would a service look with out your 30 min weekly, or bi weekly? How would that be written in the schedule of service in the IEP?

    • February 4, 2018 at 9:18 pm #

      Hi Melissa,

      If I am understanding your question, you are wanting to know how to write the schedule of service for, let’s say, a 3 to 1 model? In this case, I would write time for 30 minutes of direct service for 3 out of the 4 weeks in a month. Then, I would write the allotted time for indirect services (to promote generalization of speech and language skills) under the Supplementary Aids and Services schedule portion. For example, Charlie would have 60 minutes weekly of direct services for 3 out of 4 weeks per month. Then, he would also have 15 minutes of indirect time written, and this time would be dedicated to generalization activities (e.g., attending grade level team meetings to communicate with teacher and/or align the curriculum activities, communicating how to use the AAC/AT device with educational team). Melissa, feel free to contact me at, and we can chat more about how you can incorporate various service delivery options.

  2. January 11, 2018 at 10:28 pm #

    Excellent and insightful article. I am currently among the SLPs struggling with district policies from administration who has little or no knowledge about our profession.

    • January 12, 2018 at 10:46 am #

      Hi Maria,

      Thank you for your comment, and I am glad the post was fruitful. I understand the challenges, and it’s hard for others to understand our role and responsibilities. In saying that, I will also say that special education adminstrators have a difficult job, as well. They must think about considerations for funding and compliance. As SLPs and SLP leads, we think about best practice, the efforts we continually put in, collaboration with staff, RTI, report writing, speech-language therapy and time (or lack thereof).
      In my experience, communication and understanding between both parties yields the most for the students. And, at the end of the day, I will say that both sides are on the side of the students–and that’s where we need to start the conversation. Thanks, Maria. – Phuong

  3. March 23, 2023 at 4:53 pm #

    Please, fight for us!!!!!!!!!

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